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Comox Strathcona preliminary budget calls for more staff

Board directors want business case for more waste management staff
CSWM has put out a preliminary budget for solid waste service. Record file photo

The Comox Strathcona Waste Management board wants to see a business case for adding four new staff positions to the budget.

The board, formed by municipal and regional government representatives from the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional district areas, was presented with a preliminary 2022-2026 financial plan at the Dec. 2 meeting but wanted more information on proposed staff increases.

CSWM senior manager Vivian Schau outlined some of the key parts of the budget, including the staff additions being proposed, capital plans and tip fees.

“This is currently under review,” she said, adding they expected to provide more information in a later staff report.

RELATED STORY: CSWM makes budget change for new landfill cell

One of the features of the budget is that operating costs are up by 17 per cent due to factors such as increased volumes and transportation costs from the Campbell River Waste Management Centre and remote sites.

As far as the staffing, the plan called for two new attendant positions, one waste management operator and one environmental technician.

Schau also told the board the next couple of years would see them paying for some major capital projects, specifically the new organic facility being built in Campbell River, the closure of the landfill in the city and the new second cell of the landfill in the Comox Valley, along with smaller projects. For the 2022 budget, this works out to more than $29 million, with the three big projects accounting for the vast majority of the expenses.

“The cost of the projects has increased,” she said. “After 2023, the capital spending is expected to drop off.”

One of the factors, she noted, has been a general rise in construction costs.

Brenda Leigh, one of the directors from the Strathcona Regional District, has long opposed the new organics facility, preferring they look at closer-to-home options, and she said the project has been getting more expensive and wanted to know whether construction costs were on target. Staff responded they have included cost contingencies in the budget.

One of the other questions was about limits on a leachate pond for the new cell in the Comox Valley, which general manager of engineering services Marc Rutten said had been designed to handle the amount of precipitation over a year but that extreme precipitation, such as the “atmospheric rivers” of late has given them a better understanding of the “intensity of rain” and the effects on the leachate pond.

Edwin Grieve, a Comox Valley Regional District director, expressed some frustration about the need to make it easier for rural residents to recycle, especially in light of the ultimate costs that not diverting items away from the landfill will have in the long run by reducing its lifespan.

“They have to be made aware that they’re paying for this landfill,” he said.

At present, the draft plan would maintain the tax requisition at $5 million for the coming year, which works to tax of $76.24 for a home assessed at $500,000 based on a revised 2021 assessment roll. The staff report notes that CSWM will need large increases starting in 2023 to return to a $6 million tax requisition for meeting ongoing capital needs.

Other highlights of the preliminary budget included tip fees to remain at $140 per tonne with tipping fee revenues from the regional organics facility to start in late 2022 once the site opens, a reduction in personnel costs of about $70,000 resulting from the decision to close waste management centres in Campbell River and the Comox Valley on statutory holidays but increases of 12 per cent or $232,441 for personnel due to factors such as wage increases and the proposed additional staff.

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